By Katy Storch
The pressure of pages and pages of assigned reading is a phenomenon familiar to any Stanford student. For many of these students, there is an allure to being able to blow through reading assignments at a rapid pace. David Geeter ’12 has made it his mission to make the practice of speed-reading a reality for Stanford students through his on-campus speed-reading workshop.
After Geeter attended an expensive but well-reputed speed-reading workshop in San Francisco, facilitated by an organization called Iris Reading, he was inspired to introduce the practice to Stanford students as it was not being offered elsewhere on campus. His workshop is a more economical and student-geared form of the workshop he attended in San Francisco, a “speed-reading boot camp” that is three hours long and $25 per session.
“I want to provide…wellness for students by decreasing stress and building their confidence to rip through documents,” Geeter said. “But I also want to re-spark [the enjoyment in] reading.”
However, while speed-reading may help students get through their material faster, Adina Glickman, associate director for academic support in the Center for Teaching and Learning, argues that it sacrifices reading comprehension.
As an advocate of the importance of reading comprehension and the indispensability of students engaging with the texts they read, she expressed the need for a different outlook on speed-reading. She sees the technique as a supplement to reading comprehension efforts.
“Reading is not about pace,” Glickman said. “The techniques of speed-reading…can certainly assist students in their comprehension of the text, but the focus on pace is not the way to get the most out of reading materials.”
Geeter claims that his speed-reading boot camp can teach students to read three to five times faster. Using skills he learned from the San Francisco workshop, he drills students with physical eye exercises and mental organizing techniques to help them increase their reading pace.
To start off the workshop, Geeter discusses the faulty reading habits that cause people the most problems–fixation, lingering on single words and regression and rereading passages or sentences over and over again. Then he carries out a speed drill to stimulate faster eye movement to introduce the speed-reading operation. The workshop then transitions to comprehension drills, where Geeter assists students in learning to process words in groups rather than individually. Lastly, he teaches students to apply both drills to the text, reading slower in certain areas of a document and faster in others.
“Students bring in their own materials, and we target the drills toward a particular document,” Geeter said. “But the transition from the easier articles I provide to the often technical articles that students bring is the area I need to improve on.”
Hailialoha Jensen ’12, who attended one of Geeter’s workshops, agreed. She commended his effort to educate the Stanford community, but felt that a lack of specialization was the weakest part of the session.
“The speed-reading helped, but not to the extent that I had hoped,” Jensen said. “It’s a really neat idea but difficult for some course material.”
Jensen expressed the need for Geeter to recognize what types of materials students are reading in order to make speed-reading applicable to all texts. However, she was impressed with many other skills and resources Geeter provided, including visual and physical tricks that Geeter recommended in order to maintain pace in reading, such as using the tip of the finger or a pencil to follow the words as one reads.
One thing is for sure–speed-reading is not a magic pill that solves all of one’s academic problems. This is especially true of its maintenance and long-term effectiveness.
“Speed-reading is like taking a yoga class,” Geeter said about the importance of self-discipline in upkeep of speed-reading techniques. “It feels really good, but it’s hard to make yourself do it all the time, which makes it easy to revert back to old habits.”
Regina Getz-Kikuchi ‘11, another attendee of the workshop, felt that Geeter had done excellent work in producing a product for Stanford students.
“He has done a great job of condensing the principles and exercises of an otherwise painful and expensive workshop to fit the schedules and attention span of a Stanford student,” Getz-Kikuchi wrote in an email to The Daily.
“Now, when I set out to read something with the intention of speed-reading, I definitely see an improvement,” she added.
Geeter’s motive was to help students use the techniques of speed-reading to lessen the stress of their coursework and see the improvement Getz-Kikuchi did.
“Speed-reading has been really beneficial…it fits a need for people, and it’s my job to find a way to make that into a relationship and a credible product,” he said.
While he is currently taking the quarter off to explore career interests, Geeter continues to hold his workshop several times a month. Despite some critiques of its methods and execution, Geeter described his speed-reading workshop as an entrepreneurial risk worth taking.
“I think other students should try out the same entrepreneurial idea and be creative in the process–just not in the form of another competing speed-reading business,” he added.